Gauteng education’s court battle with an ‘Afrikaans-only’ school

The Gauteng department of education is in court over a placement controversy at an Afrikaans school. The school is trying to overturn a department decision to place 55 non-Afrikaans speaking pupils in it. The case comes as 31 000 Gauteng pupils are still waiting to be placed at schools before the 2018 academic year which begins on January 17. The Daily Vox team rounds up.

The Gauteng education department appeared in the North Gauteng Court in Pretoria on Tuesday morning over the refusal of Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging, an Afrikaans school, to admit non-Afrikaans speaking learners. The court case has been postponed until Thursday to give the Overvaal’s School Governing Body (SGB) time to go through the department’s answering affidavit which was handed to the court on Tuesday.

The school sued the department in December 2017 over an administrative decision to place 55 additional learners in it, over and above the 142 pupils that had already placed.The school reportedly did not want to take in the learners on the basis that they were not Afrikaans speaking, and said the department was ‘exerting pressure’ on the school to accept the pupils.

The school has further maintained that they refused the pupils because the school was at full capacity but the department says it was a language preference issue. The SGB said in an affidavit that it filed for the case that the pupils were refused because the school has no capacity to take any more pupils. The department has denied this and says that is in fact because the school does not want to accept pupils who do not speak Afrikaans and, who are opposed to Afrikaans as a learning medium.

In an answering affidavit, the department says that according to their calculations, the total number of students at the school are below capacity and that there should be no problem in accepting the pupils. The department has also made arrangements for an English teacher to be provided to the students at the cost of the department.
The department does not want to change the school’s single medium policy but rather introduce a parallel language medium policy. In its affidavit, it also says that Gauteng schools are at capacity, especially English medium schools, and Overvaal has the capacity to accept the students.

The department in the affidavit says that it is unbelievable that in this day and age, society still sees nothing wrong with a language that was a symbol of segregation and discrimination during apartheid. It says, “today… we still fight the same separatist language exacerbated by a denial of transformation by certain sectors of society.”
Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi said: “The other thing that makes the issue more difficult is that the school prefers to take only those that are speaking Afrikaans and this makes it difficult for us because we believe, as the department, it’s better to accommodate all learners rather than be selective and say I only need these types of learners.”

The department has called for the case to be struck off the roll as the school’s admission policy is unconstitutional.
The school has also previously tried to get an Afrikaans-only admission policy passed, however, that was rejected by the department.

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